The BBC's service, which is now set to launch in spring 2008, will provide a "guaranteed non-subscription" digital satellite service.
The boxes will provide a HDTV satellite version of the popular Freeview service, with a number of BBC, ITV channels in high definition plus all the existing services that the current Freesat service provides.
Currently both Channel 4 and five have agreements with Sky which require their channels (with the exception of Film4) to require the use of a "Freesat From Sky" card. This means that you currently need to purchase a card from Sky Subscriber Services Ltd for 20 to watch Channel 4, five, Five US, Five Life and Sky Three.
Whilst this card is included as part of the 150 cost of Freesat From Sky, Sky have in the past invalidated the existing cards and demanded payment for a new one from Freesat users. Last time Sky did this the telephone number that was provided told customers that the must subscribe and mislead callers telling them no replacement cards were available!
The BBC/ITV service will have several potential uses:
a box-swap replacement to upgrade an existing Freesat from Sky or Sky subscription box for a box with HDTV services;
a multi-room installation with an existing dish fitted with a quad-LNB;
connection to a Windows Vista Media Centre or Windows Home Server;
Mark Thompson (BBC Director-General) said "The BBC's objective in launching Freesat is to support Digital Switchover by providing another way for licence payers to receive digital television channels and radio services, subscription free from the BBC and ITV.
"Its primary purpose is to drive digital take-up in analogue homes, particularly in those areas which are out of digital terrestrial coverage. Freesat also offers a trusted free-to-view digital upgrade path that gives licence payers all the benefits of digital television (notably high definition capability) guaranteed free of subscription."
Michael Grade (ITV Executive Chairman) said "Freesat will build on the success of Freeview by offering viewers a simple and cost effective way of upgrading to digital TV. By filling in the current gaps in Freeview coverage, Freesat will ensure that a free-to-air, no strings attached option for accessing digital TV is available to the whole of the UK ahead of digital switchover. By offering HD capability we will future proof Freesat if, as expected, high definition television continues to capture the imagination of UK viewers."
What channels will be provided?
The current single-channel HDTV service for the BBC is only a test service. It seems reasonable that the BBC will provide the main channels in HD resolution. This will probably not extend to the BBC regional news services, and may not initially include the national variations in HD.
ITV1 is the only network of theirs with regional variations, so again a "Network" version of the channel will be provided in HD, with SDTV potentially regional adverts inserted. It seems reasonable that ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and CITV will also broadcast in HD.
It seems that the other public service broadcasters, Channel 4, five and S4C will want to get on board. This will require E4, C4, More4, five, five Life and five US to change their broadcasts, or for the new BBC Freesat to simulcast these channels as HD.
Channel 4 told the Guardian that the channel "currently has exclusive [digital satellite] carriage deals in place with Sky Digital for the majority of its channels (other than for Film4, which is broadcast free-to-air). Under the Communications Act we would expect to become subject to obligations to ensure the availability of the core channel on all satellite platforms, which would require that Channel 4 was available on Freesat."
As for the other non-public service Freeview channels:
Ftn, The Hits, TMF, UKTV Bright Ideas, UKTV History are locked into Sky subscription agreements, but obviously it would be to the benefit of Freesat if these channels could be made available to the extra 2.5 million homes.
Sky Sports News is a subscription service on satellite and Sky Three would have to go free-to-air, which may happen to show Sky's benevolence.
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David Haworth Friday 6 March 2009 4:31PM
Brian - I read with interest your reply but as I am not the only one who thinks that Freeview reception is better than Freesat on Std Def could you confirm whether you agree?
My son downloaded the optimum settings for the Pioneer 428 and set them accordingly and I have no hesitation in saying that the picture on Freeview in terms of colour rendition ,contrast and sharpness is exceptionally good and far better than the 36' Sony CRT I still have. To be honest it is not that far behind HD and far better than any LCD I have seen (only wish I had bought the 50'!)
The picture is by no means unwatchable on Freesat but in the way that a reviewer gives one TV 5 Stars and another 3 Stars that is what I see, and it is not what I expected for £450. I have no doubt than when we start to get semi-decent HD programming I shall change my mind.
Brian -Windows media centre is fine, but I tend to use Linux alternatives. I have a personal thing about Microsoft in the same way as I have about Sky TV eg: their primary goal is about making mega bucks as fast as is possible. For most PC users Linux may not be so easy to get to grips with but hey is much more stable it's fully backward compatible and it's hacker virus and malaware free and if you've got problems with a Windows system you can in most instances resolve using Linux utilities. Having got that of my cherst I do have Winwos XP XP Pro and Vtsta Ultimate!
I am away for the weekend and have just set my 'trusty' Humax to record the F1 race in Oz and was staggered to see that it is not being broadcast in HD. For BBC's flagship sports programme of 2009 this is truly truly dissappointing and was one of the reasons I bought into HD.
Sorry if this is an old request, but can someone give me a simple procedure for retuning my Sky Satellitesignal, as apparently it's clashing with some of my Freeview channels, particularly ITV 1,2,3,4 & Channel 4.
I know I can watch these channels via satellite, but when my freeview signal is strong (and my sky sat box is switched off)my tv picturequality is superior to satellite. I have a HD ready plasma Panny tv, and will be eventually getting a FreesatHD box when the prices "normalise".
With regard to F1 not broadcasting in HD - their are 100's of blogs out there complaining about this but very little from the BBC itself. Trying to email the Beeb is like trying to get your tax back.
The general consensus of opinion seems to be that Ecclestone is the culprit, which would not come as any surprise to most people - such a shame as it would be a real spectacle and show off HD in all it's true vibrancy. Can't understand why the BBC would spend all this money and not insist on an HD feed which no doubt would be a real boost for HD broadcasting in general.
So two of the biggest world championships for UK TV are now on ie F1 and World Snooker and neither is being broadcast on HD. Even poor relation ITV can broadcast the football in HD. What is going on? I am continually asking myself why did I spend £500 to watch children's programmes till 9.00pm and then the odd 'adult' programme till 10.00pm. With all the money that the BBC have spent and are continuing to spend on ads there is very little to show for it.
Oh and by the way - three of my golfing buddies have just got the Humax PVR and all say the same thing - that the quality of the Freeview is simply better than Freesat. Brian, what is the answer to this conundrum?
David Haworth - I know it's a while back since you posted but,in my area terrestrial has just moved to digital transmissions. Having just set up a HUMAX Sat receiver in a friends lounge and a GRUNDIG Freeviewbox in their conservatory it's quite apparent that in this location the Satellitepicture is better than the terrestrial( although not a marked difference). Now this may be related to differences in the recievers build and maybe influence by the fact that the terrestrial signal is sourced from a relay transmitter and we are still not fully switched over to terrestrial digital until the 24th of this month. But it seems that comparisons are not uniform dependent on whether you receive from a main or relay transmitter or your own receiver equipments build..
David Haworth - Should have mentioned both TV's are quality products with good specs eg: Panasonic in the lounge and Philips in the conservatory. Again TV specs also are part of the equation in terms of refresh rate and epixelation count.
With CNBC now on Freesat this should widen the sports content on a Saturday afternoon and Jay Leno returning to his show (replacing Conan) in the evening gives another option to Jonathon Ross's Friday night offering.
Briantist: Originally 10936 V was used for SKY encrypted channels. These have now been removed, I assume, to make way hopefully for the ITV1 HD regional channels. At the moment there are two free-to-air ITV1 HD regional channels and one encrypted channel. Maybe the encrypted channel is another ITV1 HD regional channel that in the next few days will become free-to-air. The ITV1 HD channel that is named at the moment as 4051 was originally encrypted with the encryption being switched off a few days ago.
NottsUK: Yes, I saw that the Sky channels on 10936 V had slowly disappeared. Tell you what would be really good for that encrypted channel to be - Channel 4 HD. It is a bit embarrassing that it isn't on Freesat now.
Mark - This development was muted a number of months back and it's great it's now going ahead. Like you I see a huge potential in the market place for this. Wonder about "News Corp's" reaction to this though?